Ryde Social Heritage Group research the social history of the citizens of Ryde, Isle of Wight. Documenting their lives, businesses and burial transcriptions.
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Mrs Beeton and her Christmas Pudding

Christmas Pudding

Mrs Beeton'sIn 1861 Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management was published. It contained 1112 pages, and over 900 of those contained recipes. The book is more commonly known today as “Mrs Beeton’s Cookbook”. Most of the recipes were illustrated with coloured engravings, and it was the first book to show recipes in a format that is still used today, i.e. with all the ingredients listed at the start.

The book was intended to be a guide of reliable information about every aspect of running a house for the aspiring middle classes and many of the up and coming households in Ryde would have owned a copy. In addition to cooking, its entries included tips on how to deal with servants’ pay and children’s health, and above all a wealth of cooking advice, instructions and recipes. It was an immediate best-seller, selling 60,000 copies in its first year and totalling nearly two million up to 1868. It can still be found in some homes today.

The preface of the book begins:

“I must frankly own, that if I had known, beforehand, that this book would have cost me the labour which it has, I should never have been courageous enough to commence it. What moved me, in the first instance, to attempt a work like this, was the discomfort and suffering which I had seen brought upon men and women by household mismanagement. I have always thought that there is no more fruitful source of family discontent than a housewife’s badly-cooked dinners and untidy ways.”

Here is Mrs Beeton’s recipe for Christmas Pudding which no doubt was served up in many a Ryde home for Christmas 1861.


INGREDIENTS.— 1–1/2 lb. of raisins, 1/2 lb. of currants, 1/2 lb. of mixed peel, 3/4 lb. of bread crumbs, 3/4 lb. of suet, 8 eggs, 1 wineglassful of brandy.

Mode .— Stone and cut the raisins in halves, but do not chop them; wash, pick, and dry the currants, and mince the suet finely; cut the candied peel into thin slices, and grate down the bread into fine crumbs. When all these dry ingredients are prepared, mix them well together; then moisten the mixture with the eggs, which should be well beaten, and the brandy; stir well, that everything may be very thoroughly blended, and press the pudding into a buttered mould; tie it down tightly with a floured cloth, and boil for 5 or 6 hours. It may be boiled in a cloth without a mould, and will require the same time allowed for cooking. As Christmas puddings are usually made a few days before they are required for table, when the pudding is taken out of the pot, hang it up immediately, and put a plate or saucer underneath to catch the water that may drain from it. The day it is to be eaten, plunge it into boiling water, and keep it boiling for at least 2 hours; then turn it out of the mould, and serve with brandy-sauce. On Christmas-day a sprig of holly is usually placed in the middle of the pudding, and about a wineglassful of brandy poured round it, which, at the moment of serving, is lighted, and the pudding thus brought to table encircled in flame.

Time .— 5 or 6 hours the first time of boiling; 2 hours the day it is to be served.

Average cost , 4s.

Sufficient for a quart mould for 7 or 8 persons.

Seasonable on the 25th of December, and on various festive occasions till March.

Note .— Five or six of these puddings should be made at one time, as they will keep good for many weeks, and in cases where unexpected guests arrive, will be found an acceptable, and, as it only requires warming through, a quickly-prepared dish. Moulds of every shape and size are manufactured for these puddings, and may be purchased of Messrs. R. & J. Slack, 336, Strand.

BRANDY is the alcoholic or spirituous portion of wine, separated from the aqueous part, the colouring matter, &c., by distillation. The word is of German origin, and in its German form, brantuein, signifies burnt wine, or wine that has undergone the action of fire; brandies, so called, however, have been made from potatoes, carrots, beetroot, pears, and other vegetable substances; but they are all inferior to true brandy. Brandy is prepared in most wine countries, but that of France is the most esteemed. It is procured not only by distilling the wine itself, but also by fermenting and distilling the marc, or residue of the pressings of the grape. It is procured indifferently from red or white wine, and different wines yield very different proportions of it, the strongest, of course, giving the largest quantity. Brandy obtained from marc has a more acrid taste than that from wine. The celebrated brandy of Cognac, a town in the department of Charente, and that brought from Andraye, seem to owe their excellence from being made from white wine. Like other spirit, brandy is colourless when recently distilled; by mere keeping, however, owing, probably, to some change in the soluble matter contained in it, it acquires a slight colour, which is much increased by keeping in casks, and is made of the required intensity by the addition of burnt sugar or other colouring matter. What is called British brandy is not, in fact, brandy, which is the name, as we have said, of a spirit distilled from wine; but is a spirit made chiefly from malt spirit, with the addition of mineral acids and various flavouring ingredients, the exact composition being kept secret. It is distilled somewhat extensively in this country; real brandy scarcely at all. The brandies imported into England are chiefly from Bordeaux, Rochelle, and Cognac.

Source: Wikipedia and the University of Adelaide Library